Frameworks for Intercultural Learning


Key idea

Interactions between Westerners and the global South leave a lasting footprint.

What’s the point?

There are long term questions about the pros and cons of globalisation.

People are changed by the interactions they have with others. The interactions between friends and colleagues are usually based on equality. One of the problems of intercultural study visits is that the inherent imbalances between the globalised West and South impact on relationships.

The most obvious imbalance is in terms of money which gives Westerners huge power to do things, travel and initiate activity. It is also highly significant that visiting groups from the UK conduct their transactions in English and that the local language is almost completely marginalised in any exchange of ideas. 


One of the questions that arise concerns the lasting impact of such exchanges. To what extent are Western values and Western culture liable to affect those who act as hosts, disturbing established traditions and social customs? Western dress codes are just one example of the challenge of showing respect for indigenous cultures. 


Further questions about the relative merits of globalisation and the forces that are driving it make this a particularly interesting topic to explore.


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Research vignettes

In the two examples below, different perspectives are given on the influence of relationships between North and South. What might account for the differences?


(a) Indian voice
"We don’t expect only for the money. We are expecting for the people’s heart. We need money, but at the same time relationship is a must."


"I don’t want to loose them in any circumstances. So we must mutually understand, mutual understanding is very important."


(b) UK voice
"On Tuesday when we were walking to his school for our first visit of the day, he asked me if I could help him get onto a course in the UK. The day before he had told me that his older sister was studying a degree in Early Childhood Studies at the university of Sussex (I think) and had been in England for about 4 years now. I suggested that he should ask her about it because she would be far more likely to know than I what possibilities there were for Gambian nationals to study in the UK, but he said his sister did not help him [...] For me this was evidence of two key things, firstly that he assumed I would have the knowledge to help him rather than his sister, and secondly (although this is an assumption on my part) he may have thought I would be able to directly or indirectly help him in terms of funding such a course (i.e. through sponsorship or by helping identify suitable charitable organisations who might help). So here the power lies with the North and an example, perhaps, of how difficult it is to break stereotypes on both sides on the partnership."

Going further

Steger, M. (2009) Globalization: A very short introduction, Oxford: Oxford University Press
Stiglitz, J. (2097) Making Globalization Work, New York: Norton